By Vivian Moreau
As a skier and an environmentally-aware individual Mark
Stoddart feels conflicted about his two interests, knowing that ski development
can have adverse environmental impacts. In order to explore his own dilemma and
that of many other snow enthusiasts Stoddart is interviewing 40 B.C. skiers and
snowboarders for his Ph.D. thesis.
Stoddart, 32, a University of British Columbia sociology
doctoral candidate placed an ad in
last week looking for 20 Whistler-area people
willing to be interviewed on their thoughts about mountain sports and mountain
preservation. He’s already interviewed 23 Nelson-area skiers and snowboarders
and will compare results from the two resort regions in his study.
Stoddart said through examining snow sports media coverage and
through interviews his research looks at dichotomies between how skiers
interpret their own interactions with nature and how that plays out in terms of
environmental values and politics.
He sees the research as a natural extension of his master’s
degree research that examined media coverage of B.C. forest policies and
ensuing conflicts. He found a lack of information about environmental and sociological
effects of nature tourism and outdoor recreation and decided to do further
research for his Ph.D. dissertation.
“I thought that would be an interesting thing to look at
especially with a lot of talk in the public sphere about the importance of the
tourism economy and sustainable alternatives to older resource-based economies
in B.C.,” Stoddart said in an interview from his UBC office. Stoddart intends
to have a draft of his research completed by February 2008.
“It (the research) needs to be done not just in terms of skiing
but in outdoor recreation and nature tourism in general if we are talking about
this as part of our new economy in the province.”
A tension between his own love of skiing and environmental
values is driving his research.
“I have personal preferences for tree skiing and places that
are quieter… and think there are definitely problems with the ski industry and
expansion in skiing.”
Stoddart cites the proposed Jumbo Pass resort near Invermere as
an example of a big development that even die-hard skiers think is too much.
“It’s basically going to create a town high up in the mountains and create
quite a few problems,” he said, “and most of the skiers I interviewed in that
area talk about it as something they don’t like and don’t really want to see.”
Stoddart said although many snow enthusiasts he interviewed
don’t describe themselves as environmentalists they do have a sense of
“This ambiguity of being aware of some of the impacts of skiing around things like energy use and connections with automobile transportation — that has to do with climate change and global warming and a real desire to see meaningful change happen to make skiing more sustainable — that’s something that’s come out of my interviews so far.”